Published 2/1/2008
Stuart L. Weinstein, MD

Election year 2008 and the Orthopaedic PAC

Participation in the process helps shape the debate

By the time you read this, you may already know who the two major candidates for president will be, thanks to the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, and “super Tuesday” (Feb. 5). The hotly contested presidential race will dominate much of the public’s attention until November.

But we cannot forget that 435 House seats and 35 Senate seats are also in play. The outcome of these contests will affect the landscape of legislation for the next several years. A focal point in many of these races will be healthcare—one of the top issues for Americans. The concerns about rising costs, decreasing access, increasing numbers of uninsured, and questions on quality will be top-tier issues in many Congressional races.

Positions that put patients first
The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is taking a proactive role in the healthcare debate. A position statement on existing government healthcare programs (SCHIP, Medicaid, and Medicare) is pending approval by the AAOS Board of Directors. In addition, the Council on Advocacy is developing a position statement on healthcare reform, and continues to modify our Association’s Unified Advocacy Agenda priorities.

The Unified Advocacy Agenda drives our Capitol Hill lobbying efforts. It addresses such critical issues as fixing the flawed Medicare physician payment formula, ensuring patients access to specialty care, lessening the physician’s burden in delivering care, reforming the medical liability system, and more. (For more information on the Unified Advocacy Agenda, see www.aaos.org/bulletin/apr05)

The Unified Advocacy Agenda serves as a guideline of important issues for AAOS members and the AAOS Washington, D.C., office of government relations in direct discussions with members of Congress and their staffs, and with candidates for office. These discussions take place either in Washington, D.C., or in district. A vibrant political action committee (PAC) enhances access to these individuals.

A growing orthopaedic PAC
During the past few years, and in part due to increased recognition of the importance of our advocacy efforts by AAOS fellows, the orthopaedic PAC has become one of the largest and most important medical specialty PACs. I am pleased to report that as of Dec. 31, 2007 (a nonelection year), the PAC raised $1,133,149 in hard dollars that can be used to contribute to campaigns of Democratic and Republican incumbents or candidates who support our position on the issues (
Fig. 1a). This is a significant gain over the $870,880 raised during the last nonelection year (2005). I am also very proud that 3,186 members contributed to the PAC in 2007, compared to the 2,811 members who contributed in 2005 (Fig. 1b).

When we compare fund raising during the 2007 nonelection year to fund raising during the 2006 election year, the PAC also shows gains ($1,133,149 vs $1,040,100). Although this is a significant improvement, we are a long way from achieving our goal of having every member feel committed to contributing yearly to the PAC. The Orthopaedic PAC is our “voice” on Capitol Hill. As our PAC continues to grow, our voice becomes stronger.

Annual Meeting activities
On Wednesday, March 5, 2008, at the annual PAC luncheon, we will be honored to have Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., as our guest speaker. Rep. Johnson spent 25 years as a member of Congress and was a strong supporter of improving access to care and fixing the physician payment formula. She served as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.

Rep. Johnson will share her insights with us on the important issues that are of concern to our members and the nation. We invite all PAC members to put this event on your Annual Meeting calendar and join us for lunch with Rep. Johnson.

Your voice for change
The Orthopaedic PAC is your voice of advocacy. This year the PAC leadership hopes to expand our capacity not only by increasing member participation but also by helping AAOS members become spokespersons for the orthopaedic community within their Congressional districts and states. Legislators recognize the importance of listening to their constituents. If you are willing and able to begin developing relationships with your Congressional representatives by hosting a fundraiser or engaging them in dialogue at one of their district offices on behalf of the orthopaedic community, please contact me so I can help you in this important process.

If you haven’t yet made your 2008 PAC contribution, I urge you to consider contributing at the $1,000 level. If you have already made your pledge, please consider supplementing it to the $1,000 level.

I also want to thank all of the AAOS fellows who are regular contributors to the PAC. To those of who you have never given to the PAC, I hope you will realize the importance of becoming a regular contributor, particularly during this election year. Please visit the PAC Web site (www.aaos.org/pac), review the information, and make a donation at whatever level is comfortable for you. If you want to discuss the PAC, advocacy issues, or other related concerns, feel free to contact me.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is a past president of the AAOS and current chair of the Orthopaedic PAC. He can be reached at stuart-weinstein@uiowa.edu